(AFP) – Oct 29, 2008
SEOUL (AFP) — South Korean troops will quit Iraq in December, officials said Wednesday, ending the deployment of what was once the third largest foreign force in the war-torn country.
Seoul sent 3,600 troops with a one-year mandate in 2004 and extended the deployment four times at the request of the United States.
The number in the contingent, known as Zaytun (olive), has been gradually cut to 650.
"In early December, the Zaytun unit will hand over its mission to US troops and start pulling out of Iraq," said defence ministry spokesman Won Tae-Jae, confirming a schedule announced earlier.
"The withdrawal will be complete around December 20. The government will take various measures to ensure that the positive effect of the deployment will last," he said.
The operation of a job training centre, a hospital, and a library built by the Koreans will be handed over to US or Iraqi officials, the ministry said.
The engineering and medical unit has suffered no battle casualties. It is based around the Kurdish town of Arbil and has built 61 schools, 15 medical care centres, 87 irrigation facilities and 82 other facilities for public use.
Free medical services have been provided to more than 87,000 people.
A defence ministry official earlier said there had been no US request to extend the deployment.
South Korea's parliament last December approved a one-year extension on condition the troops were pulled out by December this year.
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